What should you look for in a commercial roofing estimate?

Paperwork for a commercial/industrial roofing estimate.

An accurate cost estimate is essential to the success of any commercial roofing project. But how do you know if you are getting an estimate you can count on for making smart, reliable decisions? A good way to start is by understanding how commercial roofers cost out projects and what they should provide in the quote they give you.

Why is accuracy essential to your commercial roof estimate?  

The quote from your roofing contractor is a critical document in the success of any commercial roofing project. A detailed, comprehensive set of costs and expenses allows a building owner to determine if the project is feasible given the allotted budget. The estimate might also reveal that design or scope modifications are needed to align the project’s scope with the budget. Accurate estimates also allow contractors to prepare competitive and profitable bids, without being forced to cut into their profit margin to cover cost overages.

For both owners and roofing contractors, a solid estimate is necessary for a process that moves smoothly and within budget from pre-project planning through project completion.

Understanding commercial roof estimates

Commercial roofing estimates reflect projects that are large, complex, and highly tailored to the building’s usage and industry. The facility may be several stories tall, have mixed levels, and include unusual configurations. The roof may be from 5,000 to 250,000 square feet, and possibly require specialized equipment and operators, or need to meet formal industry regulations or guidelines. Time considerations may also come into play, with some lengthy projects requiring a phased approach over many months or longer.

With lots of details, moving parts, and considerations, preparing a comprehensive commercial roofing estimate is not a cookie-cutter task—it’s an art and a science requiring experience and skill. Elite Roofing’s estimation process, refined over more than 60 years of experience in Toronto, can provide a model for what to expect in your commercial roofing quotes. 

What project elements should the estimate include?

Whether you are planning for a roof replacement or new construction, the first step is for the contractor to meet with the key members of your project team, including the building owner, architect, engineer, consultant, facility manager and/or project manager. It may take several meetings to get a firm grasp on building usage, design elements, scope of work, roofing options, involvement of other trades as part of the roofing project, time frame, and other information vital to the cost estimation process. 

Professional roofer performing a commercial/industrial roof inspection.

In addition to providing elevation drawings and photographs to your contractor, planning a site visit will provide the contractor with additional insights into the location’s impact on project costs.

Once the roofing company has sufficient information, it will prepare a quote that should include the following elements:  

  1. Detailed scope of work with a list of all of the materials needed for the roof assembly and the method of installation 
  2. Timeline that includes a duration, with a proposed start and end date  
  3. Terms and conditions for the contractor’s workmanship warranty and manufacturer warranties, plus information on insurance, and bonding (if applicable)
  4. Indirect field costs, including items like permits, cranes to lift rooftop equipment, if necessary, services of other trades, equipment costs, and site restoration upon job completion 
  5. Contingency allowances to cover costs from unforeseen events and overruns
  6. Payment information, including billing procedures, payment due dates, accepted forms of payment, and any other relevant financial arrangements

Accurate costing requires accurate takeoff  

One of the first steps of the estimating process is the material takeoff, where the contractor measures and lists all materials needed for cost calculations. If takeoff measurements are incorrect, the estimate will be off—risking serious decision-making and budgetary problems down the road. Unfortunately, the rush at some tender meetings causes some contractors to round off measurements, fail to check for angled walls, or take other takeoff shortcuts that will generate incorrect measurements and estimated costs. 

Always hire a reputable contractor who will do everything possible to ensure their takeoff measurements are accurate. Elite Roofing’s estimates are driven by the building’s precise square footage, lineal footage of parapet walls, and all relevant design elements, not just the roof surface. 

Technology improves accuracy

Years ago, Elite Roofing began leveraging AutoCAD computer-aided design software to draft, design, and model the entire project to scale, allowing us to see details such as whether the last corner closes properly on the drawing or if there are any immaterial measurement differences.  When working on new construction projects, Elite’s estimating team will draw the structure from the architect’s plans–including the height and width of parapet walls and upturns–to ensure we account for all details.

With the AutoCAD drawings complete, we move on to the next steps in the costing process:

Detailed work breakdown

Some contractors use rule-of-thumb calculations to estimate quantity and cost, which may be appropriate for a rough or preliminary estimate. However, relying on a rule of thumb can lead to inaccuracies because some elements don’t break down neatly into per-square-foot unit prices, including parapet wall sizes, girths for metal and membrane, and roof accessories. The most exacting commercial roofing contractors will apply more granular measurements to ensure greater accuracy.

Reviewing comparable projects

As a point of reference, we check historical costing data of previous projects from the same client or other clients’ projects within the past two years. We specifically look for past projects that are similar in terms of scope, duration, and activities and apply relevant data to the new project’s estimate. This top-down costing method is especially useful for preliminary or rough estimates where costing factors are more ambiguous.

Consulting with multiple suppliers

In addition to discussing pricing with our typical suppliers, we often go to several suppliers to ensure we have reliable, competitive numbers for quoting purposes.

Peer review of costing estimates

Given the complexity of commercial roofing projects, our process includes having more than one of our team members review and validate the quote’s accuracy, checking for any potential mistakes, omissions, inconsistencies, or incompatibility with the project scope.

Get an accurate quote for your next commercial roofing project

As a commercial building owner or developer, the roof is one of the most crucial elements to the success of your project and the safety of your facility. An accurate cost estimation, which is vital to the project’s success and profitability, requires expert knowledge of construction materials, specifications, techniques, codes, and pricing trends. 

Commercial property owners and developers have relied on Elite Roofing since 1956 and trust the integrity of our roof replacement and new construction roof estimates. When it’s time to replace or install a new commercial roof in the Greater Toronto Area, you can count on us to provide an accurate quote that considers all the factors. Contact us today for a commercial roof estimate in the Greater Toronto Area